In memory of a brilliant and hard working man

I want to dedicate this story to a brilliant Italian self-made entrepreneur. His name was Gino and he passed away last Sunday. Gino was born in 1942, during the second world war, in a tiny town called Canossa, then known as Ciano d’Enza, in the productive Emilia Romagna, a region of Italy known for Ferrari, Lamborghini, Parmesan cheese, Max Mara, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti and some 10 football teams that have played in Serie A over the past 3 decades. Gino moved to Milan in his teenage and begun working as an office boy in a car manufacturing company, delivering the mail to the white collar workers.
He always kept his ears open to new opportunities, and when a retiring employee left the procurement department, he immediately offered himself to fill the gap. Soon he found himself climbing the career ladder and moving to Xerox, which at that point in time just opened a business in Italy. He was in charge of the procurement activities. He spent nearly 20 years in the corporate world, at the time of the “Milano da bere”, when Milan offered one of the highest standards of living in the world.
One day Gino received a phone call from his brother in law, telling him that someone was selling a shop in a town near to his birth place.
He was already contemplating a return to the origins, in terms of geography, and an entrepreneurship adventure, as a way to break away from the fixed salary. He just became a father, but unfortunately his first born died after a few days of life. His second born is now in his 40s.
Fatherhood was probably one of his main drives, so Gino followed his guts feeling and grabbed the opportunity: made an offer to purchase the business and became an entrepreneur. So in 1977, he moved to Castelnovo ne’ Monti in the Appennino Reggiano, a mountain area between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, just a 20 minutes drive away from his birthplace. In 1978 his wife Lina gave birth to another baby boy.
In the small town, Gino managed to stand out on several fronts. While his wife was working non-stop to keep the shop growing, Gino went to study to become an orthopaedic technician.
He then added the healthcare division to the shop, which subsequently became the preferred vendor to the town hospital. The shop was one of a kind, so when in the 80s other entrepreneurs copied the business model, he became President of the first early-childhood and healthcare products national buyer association. Gino and the wife Lina managed the shop for 20 years, during which he began both social and political activity.
He was elected President of the association in charge of the tourism activities in town. He launched an initiative called Fresca Spesa (shopping al fresco) promoting for the first time, the opportunity for shop owners to run their business on Friday night, past the mandate closing hours then imposed by the municipality. It was a phenomenal success. The initiative was carried on for nearly 20 years until it was renamed and run on a different day of the week.
Gino was part of several organisations, including the Mountain Towns Association. In his efforts to keep the youth to work in their birthplace, he contributed to designate areas for the construction of several factories, most of which still stand in operation 30 years later.
With his shop, he also sponsored the local football team, which during those years successfully gobbled achievements in various tournaments.
Then Gino joined as a volunteer a missionary association that was providing help to the Ethiopian children in need. He contributed and helped for more than 20 years.
While the mountain region was suffering from lack of incoming capital investment, Gino re-opened the local cinema theatre, which was closed more than 30 years earlier. He also re-opened a hotel in town that was also closed for more than quarter of a century.
The hotel was named “The 3 Kings” in memory of a historical visit of 3 Kings simultaneously, happened centuries earlier.
With his strategic investments and desire to make an impact in the society, Gino gave the second renaissance to the community. He even stood for the local political elections on a few occasions, serving as the delegate to commerce.
He was then elected President of Confcommercio, an organisation that promoted entrepreneurship.
He was also appointed as the member of the new tourism focus group promoted by various local organisations. He served as local President and Province vice-President of Confcommercio until his death on February 4, 2018.
His funeral was celebrated in Castelnovo ne’ Monti. The whole community participated, including the Mayor of the town. Donatella Prampolini, the national vice-President of Confcommercio gave a passionate speech about Gino’s drive.
Then was the turn of Alberto Campari, the President of GAOM, the charity organisation where Gino volunteered. Then it was my turn. I wanted to give a long speech, but I only managed to say: “Thank you, dad.”

Stefano Virgilli
stefano@virgilli.com